"You better slay!" Kat Jones, the teacher at the Beyoncé Brunch on May 22nd 2016, yelled out as we began learning the choreography to the new Beyoncé single "Sorry." Still challenging for the professional dancer but fun and simple enough for the recreational dancer, DivaDance is taking the country by Strut. What? Ten years ago, Jami Stagliano created DivaDance for all of us who "work" in front of our bathroom mirrors, stuck in our very own private music video. She now brings us all together for Swag, Slay, and Strut classes set to music by Britney Spears, Justin Beiber, Beyoncé, and more.
And so learning the combination began: "Right foot steps to the right on 7 and the left foot bevels in on 8. Hands reach forward on 7 and touch hips on 8. Slay." We went on to learn the inner monologue of the choreography, making it easy to remember the steps and allowing them to absorb in muscle memory, and finally letting it all go. "Left hand points to sky like 'Whaaaaat!'," Kat shows us. Her untamable yet approachable energy was undeniably loveable. The combination was filled with bouncy walks and plenty of opportunities to feel sexy, with a B.I.T.C.H (Babe in Total Control of Herself) attitude.
I come from a classical ballet background, which means on the social dance floor of a night club, I'm a natural wallflower. Get a couple of gin and tonics in and I look more like a 12-year-old boy flailing my body around than a sex goddess releasing my sensual powers through movement. While fouetté turns have always been my forte, twerking seems nearly impossible.
I've always embraced my inner ballet-nerd, but always absolutely loved watching Beyoncé and Rhianna "work" in their music videos or during live performances. In the "Single Ladies" music video for instance, dancer Ashley Everett was a classically trained dancer who studied at Alvin Ailey and there she was, "killing it" in a black leotard and stilettos to the left of the frame in the Beyoncé video.
I walked my classically trained legs into the studio at 440 Lafayette on the Lower East Side to be welcomed by Allison, who checked in a range of women to the Beyonce Brunch Class.
After checking in, I walked down the hallway and into a truly immersive experience with hot pink lighting and a sense of friendly warmth from the teacher, Kat Jones.
At this particular Beyoncé Brunch it is was high fives, a pump up warm up, and choreography to Beyoncé new single "Sorry." Life lessons like "it's not what you do but how you do it that matters," were peppered into the class and it ended with sprinkles of announcements and post-class lollipops, and my personal favorite treat, a "Slaying is my Cardio" t-shirt.
Slaying is an attitude, a fierceness, and what you bring to your class. Slaying is "doing the first thing that comes to mind and owning it,"explains Kat Jones, who's been a teacher with DivaDance for over a year.
Taking dance class in NYC, one of the dance capitals of the world, can be intimidating. Booty bumps and language like "It's your time to shine" were empowering to dancers and non dancers alike. It was a warm, relaxed, and friendly environment from the moment we entered the space. About midway through class, a sense of humor and carefree vibe was established, freeing us up to just dance. DivaDance does a great job of establishing the psychological safety to dance your ass off in class similar to the way you'd "slay" alone in your bedroom. This class is everything for the non dancer, teaching different levels of coordination, spatial awareness, and flexibility without watering down the steps. The class serviced about 20 students with a confidence and positive attitude.
"These classes help me to feel good about myself," Allison, a former student who began working as a host for DivaDance this past year, told me.
DivaDance has offerings in NYC, Austin, TX, Las Vegas, NV, and is opening a new space in Hoboken, NJ this year. Their classes include private links to video recordings of the class that can be accessed online to review what you've learned. They offer classes and workshops for the public on a weekly basis, and are available for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, and other private parties. The DivaDance summer schedule opened on May 16, 2016.
DivaDance shares the message of committing to who you are. I left feeling unapologetic about the way I move, look, talk, dress, and how I think. "Sorry, I ain't sorry," as Beyoncé would say.